PageTurner: It’s All a Game by Tristan Donovan

I’ve just finished reading It’s All a Game: The History of Board Games from Monopoly to Settlers of Catan, written by Tristan Donovan and published by Thomas Dunne Books (May 30, 2017). It was so much fun…


What an excellent read! This book was 250+ pages of intensely interesting, incredibly well-researched subject material, spanning 4,000 years of history and introducing readers to games and their creators in a conversational, yet authoritative voice. Donovan has done a bang up job. I love board games (really, really love them) and I enjoyed every word of this book. This is a very specific and personal “issue” (strong word for my real feelings) for me, but the chapters were long. I tend to say things like “When I get to the end of this chapter I’ll [insert thing I plan to do (like go to sleep or move on to a chore or some other task) here].” I couldn’t really do this with this book and I found myself, more than once, although thoroughly enjoying the book, counting the number of pages I had left in the chapter, or just quitting in the middle of a chapter. That being said, I was actually sad when I was done reading it…I don’t think I’ll find this balance of substance and quality again, at least not on this topic.

Starting out with the current state of one of the world’s oldest games, Chess, and moving backwards and forwards throughout history and around the world, It’s All a Game sheds light on all manner of tabletop play. The book unfolds in a natural way, leading readers down a delightful path and showing them all sorts of interesting discoveries along the way. For example, did you know that Parker Brothers initially refused to print Clue because the grisly idea of murder didn’t seem to fit into the idea of a fun, family-friendly theme for a board game? Did you know that special care went into designing modified Monopoly games that were smuggled into Nazi concentration camps, aimed at helping prisoners of war escape by arming them with lock picking kits and maps? Or how about this: crossword puzzles were initially called Word Cross puzzles but the name was changed due to a printing error and the new moniker stuck. These and numerous other little morsels drop from the pages of this wonderful book.

If you like games even half as much as I do, or simply enjoy historical accounts, you will like It’s All a Game. Give it read. Thanks for reading my review; I hope you enjoyed it! S

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